The Big Issue's new Citroën ë-Berlingo Van pictured in Bath with vendors Tom, Claudia and Anthony, and staff Hattie and Heather. Photo: Exposure Agency
The Big Issue’s delivery van fleet is going green – and our first electric vehicles have already hit the road, getting magazines into the hands of our vendors across the UK.
We have signed a three-year partnership with Citroën to gradually replace our diesel vans with electric vehicles (EV) that will not only help to reduce Big Issue Group’s CO2 emissions, it will also help tackle the soaring costs of fuel at the pumps.
It marks an important new chapter in the history of our organisation. For over 30 years The Big Issue’s frontline teams and fleet of vans have been the crucial link that gets magazines to vendors every week.
Our 16 vehicles cover 350,000 miles annually, transporting more than two million magazines to 3,300 vendors in a year, from Ullapool through Newcastle, to Lowestoft, London and Birmingham, and over to Penzance and Fishguard.
It is a huge operation. And our vans don’t just deliver magazines to vendors – they mean our frontline teams can provide vital support services to them every day.
On the day that our first EV – a snazzy Citroën ë-Berlingo Van decked out in bright, bold Big Issue branding – arrives at our Bristol office, the UK is melting in record temperatures. The temperature sits at over 30 degrees, and in the coming days will rise to over 40 in parts of the UK. We are acutely aware of the urgent need to reduce Big Issue Group’s CO2 emissions and do our bit to put the brakes on climate change.
Vendors Dean, Jack and Laurentiu give their verdict on the van: “I think it looks good,” says Dean. “It’s good that the company is starting to go greener for the planet.”
Laurentiu adds: “It’s a good idea. My customers like it when the magazine covers political issues – so I think they will be happy that we are starting to use electric vehicles.”
And Jack points out: “Customers are much more interested in climate change these days. You notice in Bristol especially that many of the older and younger customers in particular are talking about it. “So, it’s good to show that The Big Issue is doing its bit to reduce its CO2 emissions and be more green.”
With Big Issue South West Frontline Manager Hattie Greenyer in the driving seat, we set off from Bristol to drop off magazines to vendors across South West England.
As the van glides silently up at Weston-super-Mare railway station to catch up with vendor Robin Price, it draws glances and positive comments from taxi drivers and passers-by.
Spotting our distinctive logo, one lady stops to thank The Big Issue for supporting a family member who sold the magazine while they struggled with addiction. It reinforces how vital it is that Big Issue frontline staff are able to get out to see vendors on their pitches.
“Having a reliable van is so important to us, and getting this EV as part of our new lease partnership with Citroën will help us to reach more vendors for support services and increase the number of pitches we can get to in a day,” explains Hattie.
“That means we’re helping more vendors to sell greater numbers of magazines, and we’re able to provide the day-to-day support that they need,” she adds.
The Big Issue’s South West team covers a huge territory – across Somerset, Wiltshire and over to Swindon. Hattie quickly gets to grips with powering up our ë-Berlingo Van, downloading an app that locates charging stations close by and shows how many charge points are available.
Introducing a Clean Air Zone this summer, Bristol joins the rapidly growing number of UK cities charging older vehicles for travelling in city centres to reduce pollution.
So, as well as enabling staff to get cleanly and efficiently around pitches while avoiding additional charges, our switch to EV vans will also help mitigate soaring costs at the pumps.
According to the ONS the cost of fuel rose more than 42 per cent in the year to June – for The Big Issue, that means a hike from £46,992 to £66,728 a year. The less we spend on diesel, the more we can direct towards supporting vendors and making sure we are there when they need us.
Our first roll-out of EVs will cover the South West, Dorset, East Anglia and the North East. And we’ll be adding more over the next three years.
Swishing through countryside lanes around Bath, it is remarkable how quiet, effortless and agile the ë-Berlingo Van is. Neat, modern design features and accessible tech in the cab are ideal for frontline staff. And other models in the versatile Citroën van range will suit the needs of different territories.
Their affordable and highly adaptable EVs, plus their commitment to innovation and accessibility – with every kind of electric vehicle for all kinds of people – make Citroën a comfortable fit for The Big Issue.
“Citroën’s market-leading approach to innovation and affordability of electric vehicles is the exact reason why they are the ideal partner to work with Big Issue Group,” says Big Issue MD of Commercial, Russell Blackman.
“Our partnership will allow us to make even greater strides in the support and services we provide for the most marginalised people across the country. In cities and remote, rural locations, we will be able to respond quickly when our vendors need us the most.
“This is a great demonstration of how two leading brands are working together, driving change for good,” he adds.
“We are thrilled to be partnering with The Big Issue in their important work ‘changing lives through enterprise’, and in particular to support their transformation to electric vehicles to be a more sustainable organisation,” comments Eurig Druce, Citroën’s UK Managing Director.
“The Big Issue is a fantastic organisation that has been working to improve people’s lives for over 30 years by providing work opportunities – a hand up not a hand out philosophy we can definitely get behind.
“I can’t wait to see these vans out on the road being the electric workhorse behind The Big Issue workforce,” he adds.
As we build on our partnership with Citroën, together we are proudly growing The Big Issue’s mission in tackling poverty, giving power to the people, and driving change for good.